TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 4, 2020)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 4, 2020)

Creator: Robert Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Richard Coyle, Miranda Otto, Lachlan Watson, Gavin Leatherwood, Tyler Cotton, Sam Corlett, Jonathan Whitesell, Luke Cook, Skye P. Marshall

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

The final season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina picks up from the previous season as Sabrina is holding a huge secret where there are 2 of them. As she resumes her normal life without any threat, it creates an uneasiness making her feel less important and losing touch with her friends who all have their own lives and relationships and building up their own bands. Much like her lack of a love life as Nick has moved on to Prudence who are both finding solace in what happened in the previous season. The Academy of Unseen Arts has now moved on as well to worshipping Hecate, a female goddess for magic and spells. This season’s main focus is the warning that the 2 Sabrinas have created chaos. While not the whole reason, it ends up being the focal point as the Eldritch Terrors invade Greendale one at a time and the group now needs to deal with this one by one as they discover them as they come along in their own bloody and deadly ways.

This final part takes things in a much more focused plotline. For one, its all about the imbalance of having 2 Sabrinas (and the gradual knowledge to the other characters of their existence) and focuses on the Eldritch Terror, making each episode full of something different but all contributing to the question what could we expect next as the characters uncovers it themselves. Its like a little mystery. Each of these terrors are rather unique as well giving each episode something a little different in terms of the nature of the threat. It also takes the show into a little tribute to Sabrina The Teenage Witch in one part with cameo roles from Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick. Each terror does seem more threatening than the next so it starts playing with void, alternate universes, as well as the other realms of course, making it always have something new.

When looking at the characters, Sabrina is obviously still one of the huge focuses especially since there is 2 of her in the two realms, making their own decisions and finding companion in each other, especially for the Sabrina in Greendale as she feels like no one really cares about her anymore and starts making some irrational choices. The characters do all have some tough decisions especially as everyone embraces something a little different about themselves and slowly finds their ultimate character development by the end as the big finale approaches.

Thing is, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina probably could’ve gone on for more seasons (or parts as they call it) if the pandemic hadn’t hit (which seems to be the reason that it was cut short). However, the fourth season while keeping to its very fun scenarios and making each episode full of adventure and something new to discover about the realms and witch world and their own realm-building, the whole relationship elements and the characters starting feeling flat (for lack of a better word). It started feeling like when things were happening, it was a lot of fun but the characters lacked a little bit of the pizzazz they needed to hold up the show for longer, especially since the relationship problems or friendship issues or Academy issues all started feeling a bit rinse and repeat and felt like it dragged on in part. However, despite being cancelled, the show did manage to give itself a more absolute ending rather than some cliffhanger ending which seems to be the usual situation. For that, I personally am quite happy about it and makes the show feel like a complete viewing experience.

TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 3, 2020)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 3, 2020)

Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Gavin Leatherwood, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Miranda Otto, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Lachlan Watson, Sam Corlett, Richard Coyle, Alessandro Juliani, Luke Cook, Jonathan Whitesell

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

Picking from the events from Part 2, Greendale has completely switched around. Sabrina’s boyfriend Nick has sacrificed himself and taken to Hell with Lilith who now rules there. Much like Aunt Zelda who now has taken over the Academy of Unseen Arts to hopefully rebuild it. While Ambrose and Prudence have gone off to travel around the world trying to track down Father Blackwood and get rid of him before he can exact anymore hazardous plans upon his probable return. However, Sabrina soon gets dragged into a much more serious role in exchange for saving Nick as she takes on the role of Queen of Hell and is challenged by Caliban, the Prince of Hell who also wants to win the throne through a series of quests to find the Unholy Regalia.

Part 3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina takes an interesting turn of events. The relationships are now pretty much set as much as the alliances. The shift in power as well as the new outline of who is running things starts having a bigger toll especially as a lot of the secrets were revealed by the end of the last season. This season, its about making up for those things with some rather dire consequences, notably the main one being Sabrina given the power of the Queen of Hell and having an inner tug of war between what she needs to do, what she should do and what is more important to her. This all comes crashing together in the big finale when there is a whole time manipulation sequence where things get warped and she has to find a way to fix it.

For Part 1 & 2 reviews, I haven’t really taken a lot of time to look at the other characters other than the character development of Sabrina. Part 3 seems like a good time since most of the main cast is now rather set and developed at this point. For the most part, the show does revolve primarily around Sabrina and her development and it ends up putting the others a little bit more in the background with little scenes that come and go which is mostly revolving around Ambrose and Prudence, the Aunts Zelda and Hilda, her mortal friends Harvey, Roz and Theo and her love interest at the moment. In this case, the season is mostly surrounding Nick and eventually also the possible interest in Caliban. In reality, the characters in Sabrina probably have a lot more space to develop and for the most part, they feel rather one dimensional despite some of their abilities being more fleshed out as the show moves forward, it could be one of the reasons that it feels a little less engaging.

The main engaging and fun element are mostly the events that they pop up that flips the situation. The gives the show a nice course of dilemmas and situations throughout that eventually lead to a big finale. In this case, it goes to a mysterious circus that comes to town and the escaped Father Blackwood messing things up in the background who all come into play as he now aligns with anyone who can exact the revenge he wants. The threat here being pretty much more engaging since this new crew of characters (the Pagans) pose their own threats. If the circus itself didn’t bring its own oddities, the people they bring also have their own influences to different characters and brings in yet another branch of belief and another force that wants to take over the realm. If the Hell issues weren’t enough, this definitely kept the plot points very busy.

Overall, Part 3 was a pretty decent one. It did step up a little from the second part. This time’s threats and dilemmas between the characters helped give it a lot of constant motion, propelling it forward so fast that it was actually rather fascinating. The twist at the end was a huge highlight especially since it gave it something of an adventure like Harrry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but the different realms giving some variation to the plot from its first 2 ways. The power struggle expands and pushes Sabrina to make some tough decisions, constantly developing her character further.

TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 2, 2019)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 2, 2019)

Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Richard Coyle, Miranda Otto, Lachlan Watson, Gavin Leatherwood, Abigail Cowen, Alessandro Juliani

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

With the Part 1’s well-built foundation, Part 2 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina sets off on a more solid plot trajectory. This season’s focus is not so much about Sabrina’s struggle between embracing the witch world and the mortal world but rather learning to embrace the power that comes with her new witch abilities especially in the face of the Academy of the Unseen Arts and the leadership of Father Blackwood who seems to want to take them on a more misogynistic direction to, and a paraphrase, return them to their old ways. With both Father Blackwood’s ambition to drive this new power and change and the Dark Lord trying to lay out his plans for Sabrina to finally lead her down the path to ruling at his side much to Lilith’s displeasure, the story is all about some of the well-known characters finding their own path as they wrestle with their alliances.

Part 2 also takes the audience into a lot of world-building especially for the witch world. One of the more fun elements do go to the different versions of celebrations that exist in the witch realm, especially the backdrop of Lupercalia, their version of St-Valentine’s. The season takes itself on a lot of paths with a variety of smaller threats and wonders like some tarot card readings from a stranger crossing through town to some witch hunters. At the same time, Sabrina has to deal with her friends who have started to not trust her because of her witch abilities and whether magic is good or bad in general. Sabina also has the matter of where her heart lies especially as Nick Scratch becomes a main character at this point as her love interest which also challenges her trust in him as love is an emotion for the witch realm is not quite the same.

What’s nice about the end of Part 2 is that the show works towards shifting the main plot and manipulation to its end so that it can propel into another direction for the next part. Part 2 focuses on the big reveal of Mrs. Wardwell and her true identity as well as the Dark Lord and his purpose and why Sabrina is such a key piece in their ploy especially as the series ends on the note of whether to go through with her role as the Queen of Hell. There’s a lot more at stake this season and while the season itself is a tad shorter than the previous one, there is a lot more to discover since the characters now, especially Sabrina a much more out of the teen angst elements and diving more into the bigger elements. Sure, there are still the high school drama here and there but the whole supernatural thing is much more emphasized as both sides of Sabrina’s world does have to come together to try to fight against the bigger and darker powers.

Overall, Part 2 is a step-up from the first part. Where the first season uses for its foundation building and its more teen-oriented issues giving Sabrina (and her friends) more of the “normal” high school experience, the second season has all that sorted out for the most part other than the little relationships and friends drama that do occur. The focus shifts to other conflicts and bigger issues to deal with especially as all the characters also have changed and developed since the events of the first season. Its a good progression of events and is pretty fun to watch overall especially since Sabrina constantly makes pretty bad decisions or just decisions where she underestimates her own capabilities and everyone has to team up to help her out of it. Its a little frustrating but then there is still a part of it that is reasonable as she is trying to stop certain bigger issues to become reality or the new norm.

TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 1, 2018)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 1, 2018)

Director: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Richard Coyle, Miranda Otto, Lachlan Watson, Adeline Rudolph, Abigail Cowen, Gavin Leatherwood

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

Being yet again wildly behind on most Netflix series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina finally made its start as I work through the Netflix back catalogue. Being fans of Archie comics and originally meant as a spinoff of the show but no longer exactly the case, despite the mention of Riverdale in some occasions of the show in dialogue, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina starts off in its Part 1 setting up the stage from the get-go as Sabrina enters into her 16th birthday and has to decide whether she will be following her witch side or mortal side. Of course, she chooses neither, making her life split in half as she fulfills both sides of her obligations. With threats popping up from various locations and her human emotional side taking over her to protect her friends as some unknown manipulating forces also affect her situation as a whole, the show revolves around various topics in this world set in Greendale which has both the witch/warlock network but also the mortal network coming into play as Sabrina tries to strike a balance and starts to realize that maybe its not quite so easy to do that.

The first part lays out its foundation for everything and usually for these sort of teen shows are aimed to build up the scenario, the world and the characters. For the most part, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does a decent job. From start to the finish, all 11 episodes do contribute to crafting this dark world of Sabrina both on the mortal and magical side. Sabrina’s life takes a turn as it gets affected from her family to friends to love, making clear those divisions but also the things that makes her unique as a “half breed”. On a storyline level, it manages to keep it rather good but of course, with its fair share of teenage angst added into the mix as it brings up themes of bullying and gender much like the darker side has its own set of issues from the patriarchy and more older beliefs of the darker world at hand. There are some odd frustrating moments here and there especially since Sabrina’s character, as she shifts between the worlds, becomes rather annoying at parts but its all part of the character building as her character does solidify, much like the other ones, by the end of Part 1.

Perhaps one of the more head-scratching elements of the show is the visuals that the production or perhaps post-production decides to take as the show in almost the entirety has this blurry hue that soaks in the background. Its uncertain whether its meant to give the show the visual uniqueness or to create the separation of the two worlds, however as much as for some scenes, it does it some favors, in others, it is quite a nuisance to be present all the time and maybe even taking away the effectiveness it could have it wasn’t present most (if not all) of the the time. The revamped style of Sabrina the Teenage Witch to this version of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (much like Archie versus Riverdale) is already a darker and more graphic version so it almost feels unnecessary to try to push more of it onto its viewers. Sure, it is quite noticeable and gives it that unique feeling but when its the whole show that uses this, it eventually fades into the background and loses its meaning or purpose (if it had any in the first place other than just as a visual aesthetic).

Overall, Part 1 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a pretty fun ride. As a teen show, it still keeps a lot of the expected elements of teenage angst in the mortal world but still mirrors itself well into the magical world as she enters into The Academy of Unseen Arts. There are still the little cliques and the contrast of the values from each side, much like the contrast of the two worlds where the mortal emphasized the light/good element and is what the normal person would use in terms of lingo but the other side, the witch/warlock side is all about embodying the darkness which swaps things around turning things around. Its a pretty interesting world to dive into by the end even if there are some rather frustrating parts here and there but the show does keep things pretty constant with its conflicts and dilemma that surrounds Sabrina constantly.

TV Binge: Love Death + Robots (Season 3, 2022)

Love Death + Robots (Season 3, 2022)

Creator: Tim Miller

A collection of animated short stories that span various genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy. – IMDB

Season 3 of Love Death + Robots has finally landed. For those who don’t know what it is, its basically an anthology series full of short stories revolving around the themes of love, death and robots sometimes touching only one of those domains and sometimes multiple ones. The big draw of the show does have to go to its production by David Fincher and Tim Miller who also does helm at least one of these episodes each. As a recap, Season 1 was a fantastic selection of shorts that created an incredibly memorable season. Season 2, while a step down from the first, changed its tone a little bit but not so much the variety and also delivered some pretty good shorts. Some had very good discussion points and some were simply meant for entertainment value. Season 3 comes up right in the middle of the two: Its not quite as good as the first but is a step up from Season 2. The stories are more equal in their execution and context and most of them are fairly entertaining

While I won’t go through each of the episodes one by one, here’s a quick rundown of how I’d rank this year’s episodes from most to least favorite. I don’t usually do it and honestly, not exactly why I chose this rather balanced season to do the ranking but here we go. It probably would change if I thought about it a little more depending on my mood as well.

  1. Bad Travelling
  2. Swarm
  3. Night of the Mini Dead
  4. Three Robots: Exit Strategies
  5. Jibaro
  6. Mason’s Rats
  7. In Vaulted Halls Entombed
  8. Kill Team Kill
  9. The Very Pulse of the Machine

Going quickly through what stands out in this group despite its rankings, Bad Travelling is David Fincher’s contribution and not so surprising it made the top of my list mostly because the story was like a creature feature and was on a boat. While not exactly unpredictable, it also included some good voice acting especially with Troy Baker part of it.

The second one is Tim Miller’s contribution Swarm which has to be one of the more detailed and vivid world building about a future where the arrogant humans have destroyed their world and are trying to find a way to rebuild using alien technology from the organic creatures around them.

Night of the Mini Dead is basically a small little world, almost like watching toy figures enacting the whole zombie apocalypse. This one is pure entertainment, packed with laughs and explosions in the most cartoon way possible and yet that is what makes it unique.

Another worthy mention does have to go to the middle of the group and the last episode of the series, Jibaro. This one is very odd and yet, the story it delivers is one that is very gripping even with its lack of dialogue and mostly visual value as it revolves around a lot of dancing to express the story of these two characters. The myth that it delivers along with the mystical creature at hand does bring in just enough lore to make it intriguing. Its definitely one that would be potentially a fantastic full length film.

As I try to stay fairly spoiler free with the stories themselves, since it would be horrible to spoil a short as is, the different stories here bring in a ratpocalypse, a space discovery, a lot of different creatures and a decent amount of action. There’s a lot to discover in the stories and probably some that might even bring in some discussion points.

Love Death + Robots, regardless of the season, is usually fun time. It stands out because of the shorts compilation which are all very creative in one element or another. It reflects on humanity, post-apocalypse and usually is in a world much different from our current reality whether its set on Earth or in space.

TV Binge: Archive 81 (Season 1, 2022)

Archive 81 (Season 1, 2022)

Creator: Rebecca Sonnenshine

Cast: Mamoudou Athie, Dina Shihabi, Evan Jonigkeit, Julia Chan, Ariana Neal, Matt McGorry, Martin Donovan, Kate Eastman, Charlie Hudson III, Kristin Griffith, Eden Marryshow, Georgina Haig

An archivist hired to restore a collection of tapes finds himself reconstructing the work of a filmmaker and her investigation into a dangerous cult. – IMDB

Based on the podcast of the same name, Archive 81 follows an archivist Dan (Mamoudou Athie) hired to a secluded building to restore a collection of tapes left behind by a college filmmaker Melody Pendras (Dina Shihabi) who moves into the Visser building hoping to capture the lives of the residents but also look for her biological mother but ends up realizing that that the building’s history is a lot more sinister and starts to investigate leading her to discover a cult.

Due to the nature of the show which dives from the present day with Dan and the past via the tape restoration and his process of watching it, the film story unfolds on a parallel. The writing is what truly shines in this series as it crafts both sides very effectively both in terms of the primary mystery element but also having the ability to craft a tense and sinister vibe throughout as it captures the isolation of Dan as he discovers his own side of the mystery as odd occurrences take place and the help of his friend (Matt McGorry) as an outside resource. Much like Melody Pendras who starts to gradually feel more and more of the cult that surrounds her through the strange residents that live there. The sense of danger and insecurity within the building is constructed incredibly well. The use of the VHS grainy element reminding that it is still an image that is being watched does a good job of pulling in and out of this parallel worlds of the past and present especially when it feels like its just watching two sides of a story and forgetting the time element.

While there aren’t any big name actors in the cast, probably the most familiar being Matt McGorry for his role in Orange is the New Black way back in Season 1 (I think) and he has gone on to do some other roles over the years, the main cast revolves around Mamoudou Athie and Dina Shihabi playing as Dan and Melody respectively. They both do a pretty decent job for what their role needs to deliver. Perhaps the supporting characters and their odd personalities delivers more although some of it does go a little overboard at times. Luckily, the show does only focus on a few main characters of the Visser building while Dan’s side focuses mostly around a few characters as well. The events craft a lot more of the atmosphere than the characters involved since the sounds and eerie and bizarre situations and the fear of being caught is what brings out most of the effective tense atmosphere. The characters’ interactions and encounters do bring up a lot of mystery and questions that slowly get revealed in the final episodes.

Overall, Archive 81 is pretty good. Its gripping and tense and the mystery is done really well. The angle and the twist also works pretty effectively. The tone and sound design and setting all add to the mystery much like the characters themselves. Unfortunately, the show does end on something of a cliffhanger and wasn’t renewed for a second season. A pity really since it would be interesting to see where it would have headed if it had the opportunity.

TV Binge: Bridgerton (Season 2, 2022)

Bridgerton (Season 2, 2022)

Creator: Chris Van Dusen

Cast: Jonathan Bailey, Claudia Jessie, Julie Andrews (voice), Simone Ashley, Charithra Chandran, Luke Thompson, Luke Newton, Nicola Coughlan, Ruth Gemmell, Polly Walker, Golda Rosheuvel, Adjoa Andoh, Kathryn Drysdale, Phoebe Dynevor, Calam Lynch

Wealth, lust, and betrayal set against the backdrop of Regency-era England, seen through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family. – IMDB

Following the steamfest that is the first season of Bridgerton as it followed eldest sister of the Bridgerton family as she becomes Duchess and learns from Duke Hastings how to get in touch with her sexuality and sensuality and also helps him embrace his past so that they can move on better in the future, Season 1 comes to a pretty decent close and doesn’t have the appearance of the Duke as many already know since the real life actor has other projects so basically has been phased out with just the Duchess, played by Phoebe Dynevor making a few appearances to guide her older brother Anthony as he looks for his wife. You can check out my review of Season 1 HERE.

Season 2 dials things down on the steamy department quite a bit and Anthony’s story is one very similar to that of Pride and Prejudice and the familiar despise to love sort of story between Anthony and the previously disgraced Lady Mary’s family as they return to debut the younger sister, Edwina into society and find her a husband. Trained perfectly by her older sister Kate, Edwina is basically what Anthony is looking for in criteria as he searches for a wife to fulfill his duties as the eldest son and the Lord of the household and not for love. Right off the bat, Kate forms a strong prejudice against him based on a conversation he overhears at one of the balls and strongly goes against his pursuing Edwina however at the same time, their hatred and constant brush-up with each other creates strong feelings between them that soon turn into love. Season 2 is basically their journey for this season to their marriage at the end. Its much more familiar and tame than the first one but it has a lot more substance especially for Austen fans as Kate is a headstrong woman and she manages to bond well with Eloise, who reluctantly has entered society as well. It gets a little wishy-washy in parts but they do create a nice contrast between Kate and Edwina building on their sisterhood and their family background but also have that nice chemistry between Kate and Anthony that develops pretty nicely.

Bridgerton isn’t just about the love triangle between Kate, Edwina and Anthony. In fact, the story extends further into that Lady Whistledown plot where now, as the audience for the big finale of Season 1 was revealed to us and its just a trek for this character (not saying the name in case you haven’t seen the first season) to hide her tracks as Eloise is once again enraptured by trying to track down this character which leads her to another side of town, meeting people who are opinionated the way she would like to be. Talking about that, I do still love that Lady Whistledown is voiced by Julie Andrews. Lady Whistledown’s facade has a lot more at stake especially since this character isn’t only a part of scandal that the ton love to read but also has stepped on the wrong toes like the Queen who is also adamant on tracking the identity behind this character who constantly challenges her decisions. The final piece of the plot is the story with the Featheringtons as the household of women and girls wait for the new man of the house to show up which creates an interesting sort of side story and if anything builds up on Lady Featherington’s character the most.

Season 2 Bridgerton is much better than the first one. It takes on a different tone and while the material itself feels familiar, it fits so well into this society and how we come know and love this sort of Austen-like scenario. Not to mention that the acting is more refined with all the characters also having more substance to them as they tie up loose ends from the first and the Bridgertons, Lady Danbury and the Sharmas all have some really human moments where their somewhat of a demise separates them from the ton but also makes them embrace each other in some fun. If you’ve watched it, you know which scene I’m talking about. As a final note, I’m hoping that Lady Danbury hangs out for more of these seasons because she is a fantastic character, one of the best of the series as she’s filled with personality and guidance. Overall, a much welcomed step up in season 2.

TV Binge: Hellbound (Season 1, 2021)

Hellbound (Season 1, 2021)

Creators: Sang-ho Yeon & Gyu-seok Choi

Cast: Ah-in Yoo, Hyun-joo Kim, Jeong-min Park, Jin-a Won, Ik-june Yang, Do-yoon Kim, Shin-rock Kim, Kyung-soo Ryu, Re Lee

People hear predictions on when they will die. When that time comes, a death angel appears in front of them and kills them. – IMDB

Running at a swift 6 episodes, Hellbound presents a story circling society, belief, religion, cult and human nature. This South Korean series breaks its story down into two parts. The first sets itself at the start of these events as a society gradually is exposed to these predictions of death which soon is believed to be the consequences of sins by that individual. The first part focuses on the police follow the trail of these mysterious deaths from these hellbound gigantors that come and go in their predicted time, they soon lead to a priest of a small religious organization, played by Ah In-Yoo, previously known for his main lead in Netflix zombie film #Alive (review). With the final moments of the first half, the second half heads into a few years after this and how the country has dealt with this situation and the huge growth of this religious society that has spread to many people turning to religion for their salvation however this happens to lead to an unexpected prediction that groups up a bunch of people who hasn’t fallen for this religious cult as they try to reveal to the world the truth behind them.

Hellbound has an interesting premise to be sure and it runs at only six episodes which is one of the main reasons for its bingeworthiness. Its easy to consume and makes it pretty well-paced. However, the series does have some deceiving moments especially with these hellbound creatures that pop up which never truly get a resolution as to what this death angel and creatures truly represent in the end game. However, it takes the story and moves it away from this more supernatural element and turns into a human nature, society and belief angle which shows a lot of the ugliness of a cult taking advantage of their followers. It turns into more of a crime investigation in the second half that takes a different turn in events. It takes a more sentimental turn of events as well with the last hellbound prediction especially with how the previous predictions met their end in a violent manner.

Looking at the characters, its a pretty decent cast whether you look at the first or the second part which has some overlapping characters but takes a bigger switch in who is involved in this whole scheme of things. The characters themselves have some complexity as it wraps up in their back story and their stance on the whole situation regarding this organization and afterwards, the cult. There are a few twists added in. With strong topics about belief in society and the extent that some people will go to fight for those beliefs, it does end up having some very extreme moments as it looks at this grey area where belief can lead to good with good intentions and also the complete opposite of using it to manipulate the population to their benefit. This creates the extremities in also how characters are viewed and the desperation of others who have put their trust and faith in the wrong people, adding both drama and tension.

Overall, Hellbound explores some pretty serious topics in this fantasy crime drama series. Its swift pacing and the clear cut execution of its story is definitely some of the pros of this series. The first 3 episodes does feel a lot slower in comparison to its last 3 episodes but it has to do with different characters and a different purpose to set up the situation. Hellbound might not be quite what anyone expected and it might take some time to get pulled into its series but give it some time and it does get better as the plot thickens.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

Director: David Blue Garcia

Cast: Sarah Yarkin, Elsie Fisher, Mark Burnham, Jacob Latimore, Moe Dunford, Olwen Fouéré, Jessica Allain, Nell Hudson, Alice Krige, William Hope

After nearly 50 years of hiding, Leatherface returns to terrorize a group of idealistic young friends who accidentally disrupt his carefully shielded world in a remote Texas town. – IMDB

Before we get into the review, I figured I should put it out there that my knowledge of Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise is far and few. I haven’t seen the original in the 70s which gets a mentioned in this film and I’ve seen very little of the 2003 mostly because it was one of the first horror films that I saw and I didn’t have quite the stomach or courage to watch it. The only films I’ve seen in the franchise is Texas Chainsaw 3D (review) and Leatherface (review). I keep thinking that I’ve seen the 2006 film as well but I can’t seem to find any evidence of it anywhere and the trailer doesn’t seem to remind me of anything so either I’ve seen and its wiped clean out of my mind or I just haven’t. Looking back at my whole Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise experience to date, it does feel like I’ve watched some rather lackluster films and it probably has to do with the ones I’ve watched in entirety being some pretty subpar films. I can only imagine that it starts off much stronger to have the following it has today.

And yet, with that experience and the convenience of it being a Netflix film, here we are again with 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre which picks up 50 years after the first film when a bunch of young adults head out to revitalize the ghost town of Harlow and making an inconsiderate decision that ends up causing their demise and waking up the chainsaw-wielding slasher that we all know, Leatherface. Suffice to say that I got into this film with fairly low expectations and probably because of that, the film turned out to be slightly better than my expectations. Of course, that’s not saying a whole lot since they do have some rather predictable characters and situations and the whole story with the survivor from the 70s story Sally coming back for her revenge was so very weak especially in terms of the dialogue. However, there are some decent jumpscare moments and slasher moments.

Other than some thin characters and some odd dialogue here and there, the story itself isn’t all that bad and the execution is pretty decent as well since it takes into account the modern day trends with the whole social media and cancel culture and giving the whole story a decent amount of body counts to make it all bloody. Not exactly very gory but still an expected amount of blood is spilled. While the idea of reviving a ghost town with a younger vibe despite its past seems like a rather stupid idea considering the history, they do go ahead with it in a quick manner. This applies to the film in general as the execution is incredibly fast: story moves fast, bodies drop fast and the whole situation shifts quickly.

The use of the link to the ’74 film’s character Sally Hardesty (Alice Krige) is one that lacks some finesse especially since she only shows up as more of a subplot and seems to want to try to bank on what Halloween has done with their last 2 films, giving the film the same type of plot line. However, it never quite works considering that the dialogue is quite laughable but does end up giving the main characters a guide and courage to face Leatherface in the final showdown. Talking about the two sisters as the main character, which is a pretty decent base, it follows older sister Melody (Sarah Yarkin) who is one half of the brains behind the revival of the town and takes her younger sister Lila (Elsie Fisher) who has experienced a near death experience in a school shooting prior to this experience, making her back story most interesting. However, their stories never quite get the depth (as expected with a lot of these slasher type films) and it doesn’t help that some of these events feel a tad disjointed. However, the sisterly connection does come into play here and it does make these two more worthy of wanting them to survive these whole situation.

Looking at Leatherface (and you can all judge my inexperience with this part as its more based on my own limited knowledge of the character), the slasher element is probably the stronger part here. Leatherface is revived in this character when he loses his adoptive mother which sends him on this vengeful path. The issue here really starts in this character feeling like he is going back to his origins regardless of his age. It also dials down to whether you think the face reveal of Leatherface is good as well (although I might be wrong but I feel like in one of the origin stories, can’t remember which film it was, it had the younger version of him unmasked). The mask gives his character fear as well as the iconic chainsaw as his weapon of choice so seeing him as the older man that he is loses a bit of the impact at the start, even if it never does have a complete face reveal but an eye here and a glimpse there. It all depends on how you feel about this angle. It does fade away as the film goes along as Leatherface does go into attack mode very quickly with some quick and shocking slasher moments.

Overall, Texas Chainsaw Massacre was alright. In the slasher department, it does what you’d expect however in the narrative and writing, it feels a weaker at times . The concept overall is decent since it does try to link to the original film and give it both a modern day feeling and bring it back to the nostalgia even if both of these motives seem a little silly. The younger cast has its good and bad moments and while the pacing is very quick and bodies all dropping incredibly quickly, boosting up the slasher blood and gore element, it also might be the reason why no one seems to matter too much since they never have enough time on screen to just be a little pawn meant to be an obstacle before they get taken out. On a personal level, this one is better than expected but then, I seem to have skipped out on all the better films of the franchise from the beginning so expectations are fairly low to start with.

TV Binge: Fishbowl Wives (Season 1, 2022)

Fishbowl Wives (Season 1, 2022)

Director: Matsuyama Hiroaki & Namiki Michiko

Cast: Ryoko Shinohara, Takanori Iwata, Masanobu Ando, Kyoko Hasegawa, Wakana Matsumoto, Shizuka Nakamura, Saori Seto, Anna Ishii, Hadekazu Mashima, Shingo Fujimori, Atsuhiro Inukai, Yuki Kubota

In a luxury apartment tower, six different women in unhappy marriages end up crossing the line into infidelity. – IMDB

Fishbowl Wives dives into the married lives of various women in a pricey high rise where the higher the condo, the more expensive and wealthy the family is considered. Each of these couples struggle with their own issues which eventually lead them on the path of infidelity or in one case, pondering it. Based on the manga Kingyo Tsuma, the series is formed like an anthology where there is one central plot with the more successful and popular couple in the high rise penthouse who runs away from her abusive husband, giving up a life of luxury for a calmer and respected life at a goldfish store. The other stories of the other women are framed within their own individual episode. The structure itself creates an imbalance, leaving out a lot of actual substance for building these characters for the various women and leaving it with their decision to choose infidelity. With these stories also comes a lot of steamy sex scenes. Giving up their depth on the other characters, it does create space to elaborate on the main storyline revolving around Sakura (Ryoko Shinohara), her abusive husband Takuya (Ando Masanobu) and the goldfish shop owner Haruto (Takanori Iwata).

While the storyline is fairly thin overall, it does look at many different types of marriage especially highlighting the characteristics and values embedded in the Japanese (or maybe even some more traditional Asian) society. It looks at the different dynamics that exist within these marriages which essentially create the issues. While it seems in some cases a fairly ridiculous point for infidelity, it all dials down to the main point that some marriages might fade or change in their priorities or perhaps, all in all the lack of communication between these couples. Some of these affairs focused are truly hilarious to watch and a bit self-inflicted when the final episode shares all the end game of each of these couples. In some other cases, it also is a twist in the whole infidelity plot. It also brings in the whole concept of whether the one you marry is your “twin flame” as the eccentric Feng Shui lady in the high rise tells them seemingly leading them to these different affairs. There’s no doubt that the stand-out one that borders ridiculous and self-inflicted but a tad hilarious is the episode The Lunchbox Lady.

The central plot is where the main story does lie leaving many points to ponder in the whole situation. What makes it very respectable is the story itself especially revolving the growing bond between Haruto and Sakura is very comfortable to watch with a lot of very warm and romantic scenes without involving a lot of sex scenes. It gives their relationship a certain foundation that eventually comes to light a deeper story to the whole scenario. It shares a much more equal and balanced relationship compared to the marriage that Sakura escapes which is controlling and physically and mentally abusive. The whole fishbowl and fish brings in a lot of the analogy to her own life. The key here being that Ryoko Shinohara and Takanori Iwata are relatively good in their roles. I don’t watch any Japanese TV series so this is probably my first one so I’m not exactly sure whether this is below or above normal standard for this sort of show however, while their chemistry wasn’t always great and sometimes felt a tad awkward, it did manage to build up as it went along and the dialogue and their connection also managed to be pretty decent. Ando Masanobu playing Takuya does a good job as well since his character is pretty despicable right from the start and feels a bit more conflicted as it starts spiraling to the finale.

Overall, Fishbowl Wives is not exactly a great series. It lacks depth and character growth for the most part. It plays around with the concept of infidelity in marriage and does cover some interesting stories about marriage itself that may contribute or justify these choices (whether or not you accept it will probably also add or minus to the enjoyment of the series). These stories do reflect in its own way the societal values towards marriage and divorce in the Japanese society. However, if there’s anything to give it praise for selling itself in the steamy market, the show is pretty heavy on the steamy sex scenes and for the most part, they are filmed pretty well. In fact, not only those scenes are done well, there is a pretty decent use of cinematography overall. Not exactly the best first venture into Japanese TV series but it was pretty average, some good and some bad elements.